OHSU Building Named an ‘Energy Star’

08/28/08  Portland, Ore.

The EPA lauds the Center for Health & Healing for superior energy performance calling it one of the most efficient buildings in the nation; its greenhouse gas emissions are 35 percent lower than the average building of its type

The Center for Health & Healing (CHH), Oregon Health & Science University’s landmark 16-story clinical and research building in Portland’s South Waterfront district, has qualified for an “Energy Star,” the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s symbol of superior energy performance.

The Energy Star plaque, which will be displayed in the center’s atrium, certifies that the building uses at least 35 percent less energy and generates a third less greenhouse gas emissions than the average building of its type in the country. It was the only medical building in Portland to qualify for the EPA award this year and one of just 10 buildings of all types in the city to earn it.

The Energy Star identifies the center as “one of the most efficient buildings in the nation,” said Jean M. Lupinacci, director of the commercial and industrial branch, office of air and radiation, at the EPA. It constitutes a symbol, Lupinacci added, of an organization’s commitment to reducing its impact on the environment. Energy loss from commercial buildings represents almost 18 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to the EPA. Its Energy Star program, the agency says, spurred Americans in 2006 alone to save $14 billion through superior energy efficiency and prevented greenhouse gas emissions equal to those from 25 million vehicles.

“This award validates what we have accomplished in the design of CHH and boosts our determination to find even more ways to improve the building’s energy usage,” said David Crawford, chief financial officer of the OHSU Medical Group, the building’s owner. “It is another important recognition of OHSU’s commitment to sustainability and energy conservation.”


“The Center for Health & Healing treads more lightly on the environment than virtually any other medical building of its kind in the country,” said Mark Schnackenberg, chief operating engineer for CB Richard Ellis, which manages the building.

The Energy Star is the latest of an array of awards that the center, which opened in October 2006, has garnered. It was the first complex medical facility in the United States to earn the U.S. Green Building Council’s coveted LEED (for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) platinum certification, the council’s highest award. The American Council of Engineering Companies of Oregon named it the Engineering Excellence project of the year, citing Interface Engineering, Inc. for designing the model green building. And it took top honors in the annual 10 Best Awards sponsored by the City of Portland’s Office of Sustainable Development, which cited it as “the most resource efficient large-scale building in the region, and one of the greenest in the country.”

The center uses energy with such efficiency that it emitted just 5,642 tons of greenhouse gas last year, said Schnackenberg. That is 3,200 tons less than the 8,845 tons medical buildings overall averaged last year. Among the design elements of the 16-story structure that have contributed to its sparing use of energy are its chilled beam, displacement ventilation and radiant heating, which are used to augment its forced air system. In addition, a 6,000-squarefoot, south-facing trombe wall on the top two floors acts as a giant solar air heater, which further cuts energy demand. Gas-fueled microturbines supplemented by solar panel sunshades generate about 30 percent of its electricity. The building’s systems also include an integrated day-lighting system and naturally ventilated stair towers.

Now that fine tuning of the building’s systems has been completed, its energy costs are running about $2.40 per square foot, said Schnackenberg, which is almost 50 percent lower than the $4.70 average for medical buildings and about 25 percent less than the $3.16 average for Energy Star buildings. Electrical usage, he noted, would be even lower but for the onsite membrane bioreactor, which accounts for about 10 percent of the building’s electrical load.

Sewage is treated in the bioreactor and the effluent from it along with rainwater and groundwater are recycled for toilet water, landscape irrigation, and evaporative cooling tower makeup. No potable water is used either for waste conveyance from restrooms in the building’s common areas or for irrigation. The result is that the building uses a minimal amount of the city’s potable water and keeps all but a trickle from going into the city’s overburdened sewer system. The water bill for the building last year totaled just over $12,000 compared to $80,000-$100,000 for a similar conventional building in Portland.

Organizations earn the Energy Star by using the EPA's national energy performance rating system to generate energy-efficiency ratings, on a scale of 1 to 100 relative to similar buildings across the country. The rating system is available for office buildings, schools, dormitories, hotels, hospitals, and grocery stores, among other commercial buildings. More than 3,200 buildings have earned the Energy Star since 1999. They are located in all 50 states and represent over 575 million square feet of floor space. For more information about Energy Star, visit www.energystar.gov

OHSU in its 2020 Vision plan made a commitment going forward “to enhance the efficient, sustainable use of energy and resources in OHSU facilities.” The spirit of that commitment has been embedded in practice for some time. Two of the three new buildings that the institution has constructed since 2006 are LEED certified. In addition to the CHH’s platinum, the Biomedical Research Building (BRB) on the university’s main campus, won LEED silver certification. Its energy demand per square foot is nearly 40 percent lower than that of research buildings constructed during the 1990s.

More than half of OHSU’s employees commute via mass transit or bicycle, about three times the 15 percent national average. OHSU annually recycles more than 1,000 tons of paper, cardboard, wood, metal, glass, plastic, tin, batteries, yard debris, food waste and miscellaneous items. The Portland Aerial Tram, for which OHSU has footed the lion’s share of the bill, has eliminated an estimated two million vehicle miles that otherwise would be traveled by shuttle buses and other vehicles reducing greenhouse gas emissions by in excess of 1,000 tons per year.


About OHSU
Oregon Health & Science University is the state’s only health and research university, and its only academic health center. It is Portland’s largest employer and the fourth largest in Oregon (excluding government), with more than 12,700 employees. It serves more than 184,000 patients, and is a conduit for learning for more than 3,900 students and trainees. OHSU also is the source of more than 200 community outreach programs that bring health and education services to each county in the state.As a leader in research, OHSU earned $307 million in research funding in fiscal year 2007. OHSU serves as a catalyst for the region’s bioscience industry and is an incubator of discovery, averaging one new breakthrough or innovation every 2.7 days, with more than 4,100 research projects currently under way. Click here for more information about OHSU.